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New York City

Mr. Harper's Travel Guide

New York is often seen as a dynamic, inspiring and ultimately exasperating city. But as an autumn stroll through Greenwich Village or a quiet drink in the King Cole Bar can attest, it’s eminently possible to come here for a nice, relaxing stay. Boutique ...

New York is often seen as a dynamic, inspiring and ultimately exasperating city. But as an autumn stroll through Greenwich Village or a quiet drink in the King Cole Bar can attest, it’s eminently possible to come here for a nice, relaxing stay. Boutique hotels tend to open with a splash then shutter with a whimper, but a handful of classic addresses still delivers stately but comfortable surroundings and uncanny levels of service. The grandes dames of Fifth Avenue, The St. Regis and The Peninsula, frequently cater to a midtown business crowd, while more intimate Upper East Side retreats like The Lowell, The Carlyle, and the Plaza Athénée are perfect for lovers of Central Park and Museum Mile. The sophisticated Baccarat Hotel set in the first 12 floors of a 50-story tower is the most notable debut of the past decade.

bird icon Recommended Luxury Hotels in New York City

All Andrew Harper-recommended hotels offer impeccable accommodations and high levels of personal service. Only the best of the best make our list, so we rate them on a scale from bird icon 90 to 100.
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Best Restaurants in New York City

Among the casualties of Hurricane Sandy was this, one of New York’s most beloved restaurants. After 15 months and the expenditure of millions of dollars, the restaurant reopened in February 2014. With its garden of light-bedecked trees, lovely flower arrangements, live piano and incomparable Manhattan backdrop, The River Café is the embodiment of traditional fine dining. We thoroughly enjoyed every bite of our wild shrimp and king crab meat with white asparagus dressed with a Maltaise sauce (Hollandaise inflected with orange), and rack of lamb cooked to pink perfection. 

1 Water Street Brooklyn Prix fixe menu, $125. Six-course tasting menu, $155 http://www.rivercafe.com/

This elegant space has a bar flanked by a wall of backlit onyx, and a main dining room with rosewood accents and mounted seashells. Chef Michael White is a master of seafood presentations, whether it’s the extensive selection of raw sliced fish; antipasti like Nova Scotia lobster with burrata, eggplant and basil; superb pastas such as gnocchetti with red shrimp, chilies and rosemary; or the main fish dishes — wild striped bass with eggplant, spring garlic, pistachio and bomba calabrese being a fine example. 

240 Central Park South New York City $90. Four-course menu, $100 http://www.marea-nyc.com/

Located in a corner of the Gramercy Park Hotel, this restaurant has a lively front bar where you can eat casually, and a slightly more formal main dining room. The wide selection of salumi presents several possibilities for starters, as does the list of appealing American and Italian cheeses. The many pastas include tonnarelli with Pecorino cheese and black pepper. Among the main courses, do not miss the suckling pig. I love the breakfast when I go to the nearby Union Square Greenmarket. 

2 Lexington Avenue New York City $80. Five-course tasting menu, $95 http://www.maialinonyc.com/

This attractive space has a lively front bar area where you can order casual meals — especially pleasant at lunch — and a main dining area. The ever-changing menu features starters such as beef tartare with ramps, pickled mushrooms and salted radishes; and pork Bolognese with pappardelle, scallions and carrots. Main courses might include striped bass, yellow-eyed beans, gem lettuce and country ham; or lamb loin and shoulder with carrots, couscous and salsa verde. The far-ranging wine list has more than two dozen selections by the glass. 

42 East 20th Street New York City Three-course menu, $100; six-course seasonal menu, $125; six-course vegetarian menu, $110 www.gramercytavern.com/

This beautiful, serene dining room houses the city’s finest seafood restaurant. A Midtown oasis run by delightful owner Maguy Le Coze, it attracts business tycoons brokering their deals. They also come for chef Eric Ripert’s extraordinary food. The innovative menu is divided into three categories: “Almost Raw,” “Barely Touched” and “Lightly Cooked.” Among the highlights are yellowfin tuna carpaccio with Iberico ham “chutney,” sea beans and lemon-inflected extra-virgin olive oil; and sautéed Dover sole accompanied by almond-pistachio-barberry golden basmati rice with a Chardonnay-shallot emulsion. Closed Sunday.

155 West 51st Street New York City $150 prix fixe. Seven-course tasting menu, $180; eight-course chef's menu, $225 http://www.le-bernardin.com/

Drew Nieporent, a perceptive restaurateur, has been operating a restaurant in this space since he opened Montrachet 30 years ago to enormous acclaim. This latest iteration uses the space much as it was when it was Corton (which I admired greatly), and the kitchen is under the skilled direction of Markus Glocker, who hails from Vienna. His cooking is precise, and the presentation is elegant and almost Japanese in its understatement. My main course, “Fisch Suppe Bâtard,” was one of the best things I’ve eaten in quite some time. The broth packed an ocean of depth, and each piece of seafood from the prawns to the trout was perfectly cooked. The wine list and service are exemplary. Closed Sunday.

239 West Broadway New York City Two-course menu, $60; three courses, $70; four courses, $80 http://www.batardtribeca.com/restaurants/batard/

This elegant offering from chef Michael White is located in the Langham Place hotel on Fifth Avenue. (White also presides over Marea and Osteria Morini.) Look for pastas such as Trofie Nero, Ligurian-style squid’s ink pasta, with a tangy ragout of squid and scallops. The equally outstanding main courses may include halibut with fava bean caponata, chanterelle mushrooms and zucchini purée; or an excellent veal chop with new potatoes, prosciutto and sage. There are more than two dozen wines by the glass. 

400 Fifth Avenue New York City $85. Four-course menu, $100; seven-course chef’s tasting menu, $135 http://www.aifiorinyc.com/

This wonderful Italian restaurant is set in a townhouse on a quiet side street in Greenwich Village. The dynamos behind its success are chef Mario Batali and partner Joe Bastianich. The downstairs is lively; the more subdued upstairs is one of the most attractive dining rooms in the city. It’s hard to choose a favorite from the primi courses, but the beef cheek ravioli with crushed squab liver and black truffle is a classic. Among the main courses, whole grilled branzino with spring radishes, olives and lemon-oregano jam is a standout. 

110 Waverly Place New York City $70. Seven-course tasting menu, $100; seven-course pasta tasting menu, $100 http://www.babbonyc.com/

Although star chef Jean-Georges Vongerichten oversees a global empire of restaurants, the quality here never falters. The dining room is a minimalist space with floral arrangements, flattering lighting and large windows facing Columbus Circle. The menu changes regularly, but you can always count on the best ingredients prepared in surprising ways. Look, for example, for dishes such as Santa Barbara sea urchin with black bread, jalapeño and yuzu; black bass crusted with nuts and seeds in a sweet-and-sour jus; and, for carnivores, caramelized beef tenderloin with poached daikon, mustard essence and crackling kale. 

Trump International Hotel 1 Central Park West New York City Three-course menu, $140; seven course chef's menu, $220 http://www.jean-georgesrestaurant.com/jean-georges/

In a city where restaurateurs invariably leverage their success, I greatly admire Alfred Portale. He stands steadfast in one place and continues to create wonderful food that is straightforward and delicious. The menu changes seasonally, but among the starters, you can generally find a decadent tuna tartare. The second courses always include a risotto: A recent offering was filled with red shrimp, English peas, pea tendrils, pancetta and a Manzanilla sherry emulsion. Among the third courses, the grilled aged New York steak is served with a custard of Dijon mustard, Vidalia onion rings and a Bordelaise sauce. 

12 East 12th Street New York City $120 http://www.gothambarandgrill.com/

I have long admired the talents of Gabriel Kreuther, the opening chef at The Modern, Danny Meyer’s restaurant in New York’s Museum of Modern Art. Earlier this year, Kreuther debuted on West 42nd Street, across from Bryant Park, in his new place. He has lost nothing in the move. Highlights on the menu include a starter of nori-flavored pasta with Pacific red crab, a purée of smoked parsnip and dulse seaweed; and a main of spice-rubbed Mangalica pork (an old Hungarian breed enjoying new vogue) with roasted fennel and pear. The inviting front bar area serves food rooted in Kreuther’s native Alsace. Closed Sunday.

41 West 42nd Street New York City Four-course prix fixe menu, $125; chef's menu, $205 http://www.gknyc.com/

Set on an otherwise undistinguished block west of Fifth Avenue, this legendary establishment is the embodiment of a congenial club, with a ground-floor lounge and the bar/restaurant itself, plus a long curved bar. The menu here and in the upstairs dining room features favorites such as the ‘21’ Caesar salad, chicken hash, Dover sole grilled or sautéed, and, from the grill, a 14-ounce 28-day-aged rib eye. The wine cellar contains more than 1,300 selections. Closed Sunday.

21 West 52nd Street New York City $80. Three-course pre-theater bar dinner, $50; four-course menu, $95 http://www.21club.com/web/onyc/21_club.jsp

New York was once home to numerous classic French restaurants, but tastes changed, and one by one, they faded and died — with a single exception. Ensconced in its own townhouse, La Grenouille is better than ever. The romantic dining room has silk-sheathed walls, plush banquettes and perfect lighting. While the menu abounds with French classics, there is room for innovation in the seasonal daily specials. Perfectly executed signature dishes include fluffy pike quenelles; flaky, tender grilled Dover sole in a gentle mustard sauce; and, of course, the stuffed frogs’ legs Provençale. The dessert soufflés are justifiably celebrated. The wine list is wide-ranging, and the staff’s advice is worth heeding. Closed Sunday and Monday.

3 East 52nd Street New York City Three-course menu, $140 http://www.la-grenouille.com/
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